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Obama Streamlines Oversight Of Shale Gas

Timothy Gardner, Reuters
President Barack Obama streamlined oversight of the natural gas drilling boom on Friday as his administration faced increasing pressure to allow exports of the fuel as supplies swell.

Obama issued an executive order creating an interagency group to oversee development of natural gas, building on a pledge he made in his State of the Union address in January to support the industry while increasing safety.

A government source said the panel, to be led largely by Obama’s deputy assistant for energy and climate Heather Zichal, would not increase regulation.

The order seeks to coordinate regulation among agencies and their efforts to boost use of natural gas in cars and trucks…
(13 April 2012)

Fracking Tied to Unusual Rise in Earthquakes in U.S.

Mark Drajem, Bloomberg
A spate of earthquakes across the middle of the U.S. is “almost certainly” man-made, and may be caused by wastewater from oil or gas drilling injected into the ground, U.S. government scientists said in a study.

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey said that for the three decades until 2000, seismic events in the nation’s midsection averaged 21 a year. They jumped to 50 in 2009, 87 in 2010 and 134 in 2011.

Those statistics, included in the abstract of a research paper to be discussed at the Seismological Society of America conference next week in San Diego, will add pressure on an energy industry already confronting more regulation of the process of hydraulic fracturing.

“Our scientists cite a series of examples for which an uptick in seismic activity is observed in areas where the disposal of wastewater through deep-well injection increased significantly,” David Hayes, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, said in a blog post yesterday, describing research by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey…
(12 April 2012)

U.K. Shale Fracking Can Resume Provided Risks Minimized

Kari Lundgren, Bloomberg
Shale gas fracking operations should be allowed to resume in the U.K. as long as “robust” measures are adopted to safeguard against future risks, an independent report recommended today.

Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. suspended operations in the northwest of the country last year after causing two minor earthquakes. Operations can continue as long as precautions are taken, according to the report commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change…
(17 April 2012)

Fracking: green groups denounce report approving further exploration

Adam Vaughan, The Guardian
…In a report published today, experts said fracking could resume with stronger controls after it was halted last year following two earthquakes near Blackpool after the drilling of two sites in Lancashire by Cuadrilla Resources. The “fracking” process, hydraulic fracturing, involves a well being drilled hundreds of metres deep and pumped full of water, sand and chemicals in order to release methane gas.

But green groups and local anti-fracking groups angrily denounced the report. Former Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said this morning that it cast “grave doubt” on the government’s commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A study by Cornell University last year predicted its impact on climate change would be worse than coal.

Elsie Walker, an activist from the Frack Off group that has staged protests at Cuadrilla rigs and fracking conferences in London, said: “This report is a seriously dangerous distraction. People need to understand that the wave of unconventional gas development that is threatening the British Isles will bring with it far greater consequences than a number of small earthquakes.”

She added: “Even within the narrow context of earthquakes, this report misses all the real issues such as sub-surface damage to wells causing them to leak, the much larger earthquakes seen in the US as a result of wide spread shale gas development and the potential effects on sensitive infrastructure like nuclear power stations and railway lines.”…
(17 April 2012)